City puts hold on marijuana decision once more

Any decision for the City of Sequim on marijuana land use decisions will come after the state Legislature is slated to end March 13.


City councilors tabled their discussion to their March 24 meeting and closed the public hearing. The city’s six-month moratorium councilors approved on Feb. 24 remains in effect prohibiting licenses for marijuana production, processing and selling.


Despite some testimony from the public urging them to go forward, councilors wanted to wait.


Councilor Ken Hays voted against tabling any decision because he said retail sales are inevitable.

Councilors Erik Erichsen and Ted Miller said they are opposed to sales for now because federally it’s illegal.


“When I took my oath, it was to the federal constitution even with as much as I think this federal law is crazy,” Miller said.


He added that the city wouldn’t receive money from the state and that a “clear majority of people in Sequim opposed to a store in the city” as further reasons for his opposition.


City Attorney Craig Ritchie said the city could prohibit sales altogether so long as the state doesn’t require them.


For now, Sequim and 72 other cities have enacted the moratorium following the November 2012 I-502 vote to allow recreational marijuana production, processing, retail sale, possession and use.


Legislators, Ritchie said, are considering combining medical marijuana and recreational marijuana sales, too.


Washington’s law allows Sequim one retail store due to its population, so Sequim’s Planning Commission recommended the moratorium and to consider allowing retail marijuana sales in the general retail and commercial zones mostly at both ends of Washington Street if required by the state.


The commission’s recommendation states the retail store couldn’t be allowed within 1,000 feet from day cares, schools, the library, parks, SARC and the Transit Center.


Marijuana processing and production would not be allowed in city limits under the recommendation unless city councilors wanted to allow processing in the city’s manufacturing zone. Production could go in single family and mixed use zones, processing could occur in a range of zones, primarily commercial zone with a conditional use permit while retail sales could be treated similarly to liquor stores.


Councilors Genaveve Starr and Hays said they would support a retail location in the appropriate zones.


Public’s take

Several city and county residents spoke for and against retail sales, production and/or processing in the city. Some expressed a concern over the possible look of a production and retail site while others said marijuana could be a boon to the local economy.


Judith Parker, a city resident, said she’s an advocate for marijuana growing, processing and selling in the city and that many baby boomers with medical needs are already using medical marijuana.


“Voters have spoken and like to see council move forward on it,” she said.


Melvina Worman, a Dungeness resident, said marijuanas retail stores in Colorado look trashy and that marijuana leads to harder drugs and kills brain cells.


“I hope you wait six months to see what other cities and the state is doing,” she said.


Mark Ozias, owner of Red Rooster Grocery in the city, said there is a lot of fear about marijuana but he encouraged the council to keep an open mind and not be controlled by fear.


He liked the idea of the proposed location for marijuana in commercial zones and wants council to consider processing and producing marijuana in mixed use zones. “It could bring a lot of economic activity and much benefit for the city,” Ozias said.


William Walsh, a county resident, wants the city to look more into the possible esthetics of marijuana production.


“I envision seeing a fortress-like warehouse with fences, lighting and security. (Marijuana) will be grown in doors on a slab of cement with boxes with dirt in there.  If it’s in a mixed use area, which I live, what was once a quiet night is no longer going to be a dark night. They’ll have interior lights for growing but also outside to protect their high value product. You’re basically going to have an agricultural area look more like an industrial site,” he said.


David Halpern, a Gardiner resident, said a retail store has a lot of uses such as filling empty space and employing local people.


“Tourists in town will be looking for this,” he said. “I hope Sequim leads in this.


City councilors have up to six months to make a decision on the marijuana land uses and they could renew the moratorium for another six months.


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